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Q&A with Steven Malk of Writers House

Last Monday I gave you the opportunity to send in a question or two for literary agent Steven Malk of Writers House and quite a few of you did.  Thank you so much for participating!  As promised, here are his excellent answers. 

***

Steven Malk Carol Marks asks:

It states on the Submission page to include in your query letter your credentials.  What if this is the first book I've ever written and have no "credentials?"

Hi Carol,

Rest assured that it’s absolutely fine if you’ve never been published before.  I’ve worked with new writers throughout my career and it’s something I greatly enjoy.  However, keep in mind that credentials don’t pertain solely to books that you’ve published.  Perhaps you’ve published short stories, magazine articles, maintained a blog, or done other types of writing.  Or you could be connected to the writing community in other ways, such as working at a bookstore, attending writers conferences, or just having a lifelong love of reading.  Those all count as credentials in my book, and they’d certainly be worth noting in your query.

Kendall asks:

Is your old associate Lindsay Davis still involved in agenting or in the publishing world in general?  Does she plan on coming back?

What are you looking for now and not getting?

Hi Kendall,

Lindsay is no longer working in publishing.  She’s living in England and spending lots of time with her husband and new son.  She’s still reading as much as ever, but I don’t think she has plans to come back to the publishing business at this time.

In terms of your second question, I feel very fortunate to have received some great submissions lately, so I haven’t given as much thought to what I’m not seeing, especially since my general philosophy is always that I don’t look for specific things, but rather strong, original voices that I haven’t read before, whatever genre they may fall under.  That said, one thing I’ve noticed is that I’m seeing quite a few submissions that seem derivative of books or genres that are popular at the moment, which isn’t as interesting to me.  If anything, I’d much rather find the next Munro Leaf, Ruth Krauss, Beverly Clearly, or Judy Blume; I’m always in search of people who have an appreciation for the classics and are able to identify what was so special about those books, and bring that same quality to their own work, but in a way that’s completely their own and feels unique to them.

Timothy Jason Wallis asks:

You've said you like a "strong voice." There are many different interpretations of what a "voice" is in the industry. Could you please expand on the definition of a "strong voice?"

Twilight brought much success to the protagonist First Person narrative. What are your thoughts on novels that change the First Person perspective to different characters and the traditional Third Person narrative?

Hi Timothy,

Yes, a strong voice is and always has been the most important thing to me, and I think the same thing goes for publishers.  It can be a hard thing to define. Technically, I would say that it has to do with having a strong and consistent command over your narration in a way that makes it feel authentic, but, beyond that, I think it has to do with your work feeling fresh, unique, and singular.  I know something has a strong voice when I’m reading it and I truly feel that I’ve never come across this voice before.  I can still remember reading THE CATCHER IN THE RYE for the first time and thinking that Holden’s voice felt real and immediate to me.

It’s hard to comment on first person vs third person. I think they both have a lot of advantages and I can certainly think of many books written each way that I’ve enjoyed.  In terms of shifting perspectives throughout a book, I think it can be very effective, but it really needs to be done skillfully. If it’s not, it can be disorienting.  So, I think an author has their work cut out for them when they do this, but, if it works, it can be brilliant.

Lee Wind asks:

Many writers write for multiple age categories:  ie., MG, YA, PB.  And also sometimes different genres (like NF and Fiction) in the same age category. If he debuts an author with, say, a MG fiction, would he want to wait and follow that up with a certain number of other MG fiction books before trying to sell his client's work in another category or genre to better "brand" the author, or would he rather go with whatever the next great thing the writer has that he thinks could sell?

Hi Lee,

I’ve been fortunate to represent writers who’ve published successfully across different genres. I think Cynthia Rylant is a great example of this.  It’s really something that has to be evaluated on a case-by-case basis.  I truly believe that writers need to follow their heart in terms of what they should be working on, so if someone has written middle-grade fiction and they’re compelled to write a picture book next, I would support them in that. I do think you always want to be looking at the big picture when making these sorts of decisions and you want to be mindful of the importance of building momentum.  Essentially, it’s fine to publish across different genres as long as you’re truly weighing all the pros and cons of changing genres, making an educated decision, and that there really is a larger plan at work.

Carolyn Flower asks:

What books meant the most to you during your childhood and why?

Hi Carolyn,

I could spend a long time answering this question.  It’s one of my favorite topics!  FLAT STANLEY by Jeff Brown meant a lot to me as a kid, because I just loved the sense of imagination, and Tomi Ungerer’s illustrations in the edition I had were an endless source of humor and inspiration to me.  I’LL FIX ANTHONY by Judith Viorst was (and is) a favorite because it’s about a younger brother trying to deal with his older brother (Anthony), and I really do have an older brother named Anthony!  Beyond that, I couldn’t read it without laughing and Viorst is truly a master in the way that she tells stories (as a side note, Lane Smith just illustrated a new book by her called LULU AND THE BRONTASAURUS that will be published later this year, and it was truly a highlight of my career to be tangentially involved with Mrs. Viorst).  Here are some other books that meant an awful lot to me and still inspire me:

•    Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White
•    Matilda by Roald Dahl (and just about anything else he wrote)
•    The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin
•    The Mrs. Piggle Wiggle series by Betty MacDonald
•    The Great Brain series by John Fitzgerald
•    Emma by Barbara Cooney (and anything else she ever did)
•    The Nutshell Library by Maurice Sendak
•    The Frog & Toad series by Arnold Lobel
•    The Nate the Great series by Marjorie Weinman Sharmat
•    Bill Peet: An Autobiography by Bill Peet
•    Doctor De Soto by William Steig

And many, many more!

Natalie Aguirre asks:

Does he represent fantasy and if so, what types of fantasy is he interested in?

Hi Natalie,

I do represent fantasy, but it’s hard to specify a certain kind of fantasy that I’m most interested in.  As with other genres, I’m just looking for a strong voice and well-developed characters.  I will say that for fantasy, world-building can be crucial, so it’s something that I keep my eye on very closely. 

Laurie Lam asks:

Do you have a story about "the one that got away"?

Hi Laurie,

I really don’t, and I’ll explain why.  Although this may sound a bit hokey (or maybe it fits right in with me being from California!), I try to be very philosophical about this business and I really do believe that books end up with certain agents for a reason.  I’ve been lucky enough to represent some very successful books in my career, and I like to think that my passion for them and understanding of how they needed to be positioned or where they would be best placed had some small role in their path to success.  Similarly, if I pass on a book, and it goes on to be successful with another agent, while it seems natural to regret the decision, it really means that it just wasn’t right for me for whatever reason, and if I didn’t have the right vision for it from the beginning, I likely wouldn’t have done the best job for it, and the author really was better suited for the agent who took it on and championed it.

Leona Broberg asks:

My question for Mr. Malk is, upon reading a manuscript does he immediately know if something is right for him, or does he have to mull it over?

Hi Leona,

I do have very strong instincts and generally have a strong gut feeling about whether something is working, but it’s not black or white, in the sense that things aren’t either clicking on all cylinders or not at all.  There are often cases where I’ll see something in a manuscript that’s really appealing but it needs work or shaping, so often I need to ponder those longer to decide how best to proceed.

Tara7 asks:

I'd actually like to know whether Mr. Malk is into young adult fantasy/paranormal and if so what kind of fantasy/paranormal stories he likes or would like to see more of. Does he like stuff that's high fantasy like Eragon or Twilight-y paranormal romance? Is he into vampires/werewolves/fairies/ghosts or would he like to see something different than that? Gritty or whimsical, etc.

Hi Tara7,

I do enjoy some paranormal novels, but, unfortunately, I just can’t put specific parameters around exactly what I’m looking for, in the sense that I can appreciate just about anything if it’s executed in a smart, thoughtful way, so I hate to limit myself.  I enjoy both male and female protagonists and can honestly say that I don’t have any preference there.

Alexandra asks:

When reading a query, how do you decide whether to ask for a partial (or more) or flat out reject it?

Hi Alexandra,

I tend to trust my instincts and I usually know very quickly from a query whether it’s something that seems like it could be right for me or not.  Also, I really do appreciate a thoughtful, professional query.  It’s nice to see that someone has clearly done their homework and can explain their work in a clear, concise way and demonstrate an understanding of where their book fits into the market.  It’s also helpful to know why someone has chosen to query me, and that I’m not just one of many agents getting the exact same letter.  At the end of the day, the work will speak for itself, but your chances of getting a request (from just about any agent, I would say) will be exponentially higher if you do those things.

Kristi Helvig asks:

Due to a variety of factors, the responsibility of publicity is falling more and more to the author. Aside from building an online presence, do you have any other marketing suggestions for aspiring authors?

Hi Kristi,

I think that’s true.  One thing not to underestimate is the importance of getting to know your local independent bookstore.  Shop at the store consistently over time, introduce yourself, and get to know the staff.  Although I’m sure the staff at the store will be friendly if you walk in with your book to show them, it’ll be even better if you’ve been supporting the store as a customer over time.  It’s always nice to have a home base like this where you can do a launch event.  In general, building from your community can be very helpful.  Once you have a release date, see if there’s a local paper that might consider doing a story on you, or any local organizations you can speak to.  Speaking at school and libraries is always an excellent idea, as well. I know this all sounds a bit old-fashioned, but it really does work.

Sharon Roat asks:

You represent some of the top writers/illustrators whose books appeal to middle grade boys (John Scieszka, Lane Smith, Adam Rex). My 10-yr-old son is a big reader, and loves them (I do too). What do you see on the YA shelves that will keep boys reading, and what would you like to see more of from YA authors?

Hi Sharon,

Thank you.  The notion of making sure that boys keep reading is something that’s very important to me.  I did want to take this opportunity to say that Jon Scieszka recently relaunched www.guysread.com and Walden Pond Press/HarperCollins will be publishing the first volume in the Guys Read Library, “Funny Business,” this Fall.  It features original short stories from Adam Rex, Mac Barnett, Jack Gantos, Christopher Paul Curtis, Jeff Kinney, Kate DiCamillo, and others.  Here’ a trailer:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DCd9ln6Y5Cs

All of the people mentioned above write great material for boys.  In terms of true YA (as opposed to older middle grade), Adam Rex’s new novel, FAT VAMPIRE, is fantastic, but it’s certainly on the older side of YA.  I do think there’s some great YA stuff out there for boys, and some recent ones that come to mind are MARCELO IN THE REAL WORLD, LEVIATHAN, THE ARRIVAL, and THE BOOK THIEF.

Again, it’s hard to nail down exactly what I’m looking for in this genre, but I will say that I do always love humor. 

Tamara asks:

When it comes to YA, paranormal is so popular. Are editors still interested in mainstream YA, or in other words, projects with no paranormal elements?

Hi Tamara,

Paranormal is indeed very popular, but I absolutely think that publishers are still as interested as ever in mainstream YA, and there have been big recent successes that weren’t paranormal. 

Katharina Gerlach asks:

Is it a problem if the author does not live in the US, GB or Down Under (especially if (s)he lives in a country where English is not the first language)?

Hi Katharina,

I don’t think this is necessarily a problem.  It’s always good to be available to come to the US to meet with your publisher at some point, but living in a foreign country certainly isn’t prohibitive.  My client, Yoko Tanaka, currently lives in Thailand.

Tunescribble asks:

How do you think the addition of an interactive component for ebooks will modify the writing and publishing process? Do you think that evolution will be confined mainly in the younger genres?

Hi Tunescribble,

This is certainly an issue that we’re all watching very carefully.  The landscape is changing and it can be a bit unsettling on one level, as it’s such unchartered territory.  On the other hand, I don’t think new technology is something to be scared of – it can be used in interesting ways to work with words and pictures.  I’m always going to be partial to good old-fashioned books, personally, but I think it’s important to remain open minded on this front.  Publishers are all experimenting with these new formats, and I think it’s hard to say exactly how it will shake out, but I do think it’s here to stay.  I actually think picture books will be the final frontier and the last to cross over, but I think you’ll start seeing more and more middle-grade and young adult ebooks that have some sort of enhanced feature.

Kai asks:

You sign a client when you are excited about a project.  What happens when the next project they submit to you is something you don't feel you can get behind?  Do you work with client to mold the project into something more enticing or is client on their own with that one?

Hi Kai,

If that happens, I’m honest with my client and I’ll express my feelings about what isn’t working for me.  One way or another – through revision, discussion, or both – we’ll reach a resolution, but it’s an open dialogue. I do think it’s more important than ever for writers to be strategic about what they put out there, and you really do want to always be raising the bar on yourself to always put our your best work.

Ruth Donnelly asks:

Steven, from your impressive client list, I see that you represent some well-known chapter book series authors (Cynthia Rylant, Sara Pennypacker...) Can you talk about querying a single chapter book vs. a series? The common wisdom is to query one book at a time; does that also hold true for chapter books, or would an agent or editor want to see ideas/outlines for subsequent books? I'd also love to hear any other thoughts you have about the current chapter book market.

Hi Ruth,

The chapter book is definitely something that needs to be considered on its own and the rules tend to be a bit different.  Series really are essential, as you’ll rarely see single title chapter books unless they’re part of a larger program.  The challenge is that this market is largely dominated by a few brand-name series, so single title books tend to get swallowed up on the shelf.  You need to have a critical mass of books before you can really make a dent in this market, so if you’re proposing a chapter book, you’ll really want to have at least one book written, but also have ideas for at least 3 or 4 more books in the series.  Because chapter books really do need to be launched as series, publishers are extremely selective, as the commitment is larger, so it’s a challenging market to break into.  However, when something catches on, it tends to really work over a long period of time.

Mike P asks:

Now, if Steve or an another agent has read a novel they requested from a writer and passed on it it, would it be okay to requery the novel if it has been significantly revised with focus on said agent's feedback?

Hi Mike P,

If an agent has given you specific feedback, and you’ve revised the novel along those lines, I absolutely think it’s fine to requery.  Just be sure to  reference that in your letter.

Janet Johnson asks:

What do you read when you aren't working? Or is that ever?

Hi Janet,

I tend to read almost exclusively non-fiction when I’m reading for fun these days. I particularly enjoy biographies and really like reading about people I admire.  I just finished reading an excellent book about Bill Walsh, the former football coach, called THE GENIUS by David Harris.  I subsequently read Bill Walsh’s own book called THE SCORE TAKES CARE OF ITSELF.   And I recently finished a fascinating book about the history of baseball cards called MINT CONDITION by Dave Jamieson.  What can I say, I’m a sports fanatic.

Elizabeth Lynd asks:

So, a lot of yet-unpublished writers have a manuscript or two that's "under the bed," and some of those really need to stay there. Others, though, might be pretty good, just not good enough (yet). When an agent takes on a new client based on the current project, how likely is it that s/he looks at those older manuscripts and reps them as well? And what kind of help (varies from agent to agent, obviously) should a writer expect for these? Also, will the agent perhaps shop them with the new manuscript for a two- or three-book deal? And how common is all this--or is it more likely the old manuscripts pull a permanent Rumplestiltskin?

Hi Elizabeth,

I think this really varies from agent to agent.  My own philosophy is that its important to be as focused as possible, so I think you want to go out with your strongest project.  If the other books have possibilities but aren’t ready, they can be worked on over time, but if they’re truly just not working for whatever reason, there’s no reason to force it.  You really do want to take a very long view, and think about what’s ultimately going to serve you the best when you make these decisions.

Casey asks:

What do you wish more writers understood about you as a literary agent?

Hi Casey,

One thing I’d love to emphasize is that although some of the things that I say when I’m turning down a manuscript may sound like clich├ęs, such as the fact that this business is subjective and there’s someone else out there who will love this manuscript, they really are very true and things that I truly believe.  There are so many examples of people who took a long time to find the right fit and received many rejections along the way, only to finally end up with just the right person and be very successful.  As I’ve said in other interviews and speeches, it’s crucial to always look at the big picture and not rush yourself – that’s the biggest mistake a writer can make and it can truly derail a career.  I understand that the process of seeking representation can feel like a roller coaster ride and test your will, but you really do deserve an agent who really connects with your work, and you shouldn’t ever settle for less. 

***

Awesome answers, right?  I love Steven's explanation of voice.  Everyone, please take a moment to thank Steven in the comments.  He answered way more questions than the average interview and gave us a healthy chunk of his time.  Thanks Steven!  You rock!

Agent Spotlight: Chris Richman



Profile Removed 7/10/13.

Mr. Richman has left the publishing industry and is no longer a literary agent. 

More info available here.

Tip Tuesday #38

Do you guys remember Ryan? I thought you'd like to know that his hard work and patience paid off. He recently signed with Steven Malk (congrats Ryan!). But, I'm actually bringing him up because he sent in a tip for the week (as much as this is turning into Malk-week, the timing is totally coincidental, I swear). He doesn't have a website or blog up yet, but it's in the works. I'll let you know when we can commence blog-stalking.

Here's his tip:

My biggest motivation in writing is keeping a writing log. I always write down a) date b) chapter c) time spent d) words written e) running total of words in the project. By forcing myself to do so, I frequently push further than I normally would have. I don't so much care about time, but if I've written 850 words, say, I'll want to push it to 1000, and sometimes if I go over that, I'll try to just keep going to 1200 or 1500. One night, I would have stopped at 800, but I pushed further a couple of times until I got to 2000. Beyond the fact that I tend to write more, I also can go back afterward and find out how much time I spent on certain things, what speed I wrote at, and better predict when I'll be done.


Wow, Ryan. You're awesomely organized. I've kept word count logs with dates but never thought to keep track of time spent. I bet that's a great reminder on slow days, knowing how much you can get done in X amount of time. Thanks again for the tip!

Readers: Do you keep a writing log? Consider giving it a try!

Question Cut Off

Good morning!

We've got plenty of questions for the Q&A. Thank you to all who sent one or two in. Most of you followed the instructions and I really appreciate that. I'll post the Q&A as soon as I can.

Thanks!

Q&A with Steven Malk of Writers House

Hey everyone!

I have an exciting opportunity for you. Super agent Steven Malk of Writers House has graciously agreed to do a Q&A with you, Literary Rambles's blog readers!

You'll be e-mailing me your questions but please read the following details before you do.

I'll take questions for approximately 24 hours or until we're entirely too flooded. Steve is going to answer as many as possible but won't be answering all of them, especially since there are bound to be repeats and similarities.

Be original! However, to increase the likelihood of your question being answered, please refrain from asking situation-specific questions. He'd prefer not to receive these, and the best questions will be those that benefit everyone. I also ask that you limit yourself to one question per person, two at the most. When you send your question, please leave the name or screename you'd like your question posted under when the Q&A goes up.

I'll put up a post as soon as we're closed to new questions, and the Q&A will be posted later in the week after Steve has had time to answer.

For information on Steven Malk and what he's looking for, please check out his Spotlight.

Ready? Go! E-mail me your questions at agentspotlight(at)gmail(dot)com. Feel free to ask clarification questions in the comments.

UPDATE! We're all full-up on questions. Thanks everyone!!!!! The Q&A should be posted later this week or early next week.

Agent Spotlight: Kathleen Ortiz

This week's Agent Spotlight features Kathleen Ortiz of New Leaf Literary & Media.

Status: Open to submissions.

KathleenAgent-PhotoAbout: “Kathleen Ortiz is Director of Subsidiary Rights and a Literary Agent at New Leaf Literary & Media, Inc. -- a full service agency that represents both juvenile and adult literature and works with only high quality writers. She is an agent member of the Association of Authors' Representatives and New Work Women in Communication. The agency is an active member of SCBWI, RWA and AAR.

“On the children’s side, Kathleen is interested in acquiring all genres of YA (she especially gravitates to darker YA), but would specifically love a beautifully told story set within another culture (historical or modern, in the vein of BLOOD DIAMOND or MEMOIRS OF A GEISHA). She's also looking for darker middle grade for older kids (especially in the vein of LABYRINTH). On the adult side, she’s looking for lifestyle or technology non-fiction, as well as urban fantasy or paranormal romance. Please, no picture books, chapter books or adult books outside of romance.

“Kathleen also handles foreign and audio rights for Red Tree Literary.” (Link)

Web Presence:

New Leaf website.

New Leaf  blog.

New Leaf Facebook.

New Leaf Twitter.

New Leaf Pinterest.

Ms. Ortiz’ Blog - Neverending Page Turner.

Publisher's Marketplace page.

Twitter.

AAR profile.

QueryTracker, AgentQuery.

What She's Looking For:

Genres / Specialties:

Middle Grade, Young Adult, Adult Romance, Selected Non-Fiction. (Link)

From her Bio (as of 8/2012):

“On the children’s side, Kathleen is interested in acquiring all genres of YA (she especially gravitates to darker YA), but would specifically love a beautifully told story set within another culture (historical or modern, in the vein of BLOOD DIAMOND or MEMOIRS OF A GEISHA). She's also looking for darker middle grade for older kids (especially in the vein of LABYRINTH). On the adult side, she’s looking for lifestyle or technology non-fiction, as well as urban fantasy or paranormal romance. Please, no picture books, chapter books or adult books outside of romance.” (Link)

From a Blog Post (07/2012):

“Young adult: I'd really love a cyberpunk, thriller, sci-fi, horror, romance, or historical fantasy; however, I'm open to all YA manuscripts, though I do tend to skew toward dark and edgy.

Middle grade: I'm only looking for stories for upper middle grade.

Romance: paranormal, urban fantasy, suspense, thriller, only.

Non-fiction: pop culture, women's issues, technology or lifestyles, only.” (Link)

From a Blog Post (last updated 05/2012):

Young adult:

  • I tend to skew toward darker/edgy YA. I'd love to see a YA romance from a male POV. I'm all about an authentic teen voice.
  • Still looking for an awesome thriller -- a true contemporary thriller with the countdown element and preferably high tech or at least of this world (aka no paranormal elements)
  • A story set within another culture, whether it be contemporary or historical, within the US or outside of it -- think a YA version of  MEMOIR OF A GEISHA or ANNA AND THE KING or BLOOD DIAMOND.
  • A lovely YA historical with a strong commercial twist -- and by commercial I mean speculative (but not paranormal) or a very strong, suspenseful plot to keep me going.
Middle Grade
  • I'm interested in only older MG at this time. 
  • Something like a cool, darker twist on LABYRINTH or NEVERENDING STORY (world building, not necessarily 'world in a book') would be fantastic.
Non-fiction (YA or adult):
  • Something different than what's already out there. Not really into "how to find the perfect guy" or "how to apply makeup" or "100 awesome things of being a teen." 
  • Anything with technology, pop-culture, entertainment or women's issues is a bonus. 
  • You must have a strong platform or be considered an expert in your field for me to consider a non-fiction project.*

Romance: contemporary, urban fantasy or paranormal, only” (Link)

What She Isn't Looking For:

“I am not looking for chapter books, picture books, screenplays, poetry (this includes novels in verse), erotica, regency romance, inspirational, adult thrillers, adult horror, or women's fiction.” (Link)

Her Advice to Writers:

"If this is what you want, don’t stop practicing your craft and gaining experience. Conferences, critique groups, even Twitter chats like #kidtlitchat and #yalitchat can be SO much help when you’re starting out. Use all the tools available to you to help improve your craft." (Link)

"Something I've been seeing a lot of recently are fabulous opening chapters (typically the first 3 or first 30 pages) and then after I request the full, it feels as though someone else wrote it. I have a hunch this is typically from those writers who enter and win partial critiques. If this is the case, you must apply the revisions to the entire manuscript - not just the first section that was critiqued." (Link)

Dislikes:

Not following submission guidelines.  Querying a genre she doesn't represent. Using "Dear Sir." Etc.  (Interview w/details).

There's also a healthy list of unprofessional query tactics in this post on Query Etiquette at Neverending Page Turner by Ms. Ortiz.

And... even more Query Blunders in this post at OPWFT.

Editorial Agent?

Yes, she makes revisions requests and gives editorial guidance as needed.

"I've never signed, or seen for that matter, an MS that is ready to go from the start. I don't believe a manuscript like that will ever cross my inbox, and that's ok. It's a really subjective business and even if it's something as minor as a few comma issues, everyone's going to read it differently and have input." (Link)

Clients:

Sarah Fine, Dan Haring, Bree Hester, Sarah Marino, Gail Perry Mason, Dawn Miller, Jamie Reed, Patricia Rushford (Jennie Series), and Kimberlee Turley.

Sales:

As of 8/2012, Ms. Ortiz is listed on Publisher’s Marketplace as having made 40 deals in the last 12 month and 56 overall. Recent deals include 21 international rights: children’s, 2 international rights: fiction, 1 audio rights, 1 young adult.

Ms. Ortiz also keeps her PM page updated with recent deals.

Query Methods:

E-mail: Yes.  

Snail-Mail: No.

Online-Form: No.

Submission Guidelines (always verify):

Send a query to the group agency address. Make sure to include the words QUERY and "Kathleen Ortiz” in the subject line. Paste the first five pages into the body of the e-mail with the query. No attachments.

You will receive an auto-response confirming receipt of your query. Multiple submissions within the agency are not allow.

Please see Ms. Ortiz’s Publisher’s Marketplace page for complete, up-to-date submission guidelines.

Query Tips:

See the New Leaf blog for submission FAQ.

"Even if the rest of the query isn’t as stellar as it should be, if you have a great hook, I’m requesting pages. I totally get that some people just have issues with queries and that’s ok with me. But you have to grab me somehow. I’m also a big fan of personalization. A lot of agents don’t care how you say you found them, but I like when writers put a little effort." (Link)

Response Times:

The agency only responds if interested. If you do not hear back within two weeks, check Ms. Ortiz’s blog for current query stats. If she’s passed the date you sent your query, it’s a pass.

What's the Buzz?

Ms. Ortiz has great buzz. Her online presence through blogging and twitter make her popular among aspiring authors, and she's known for having a fun, approachable personality and love of slush. She maintains a small list of clients but is actively seeking fantastic new talent.

Definitely follow her blog and twitter to stay up-to-date on preferences and peeves.  She keeps a list of conferences she'll be attending on her blog, and regularly participates in informative twitter sessions such as #yalitchat, #kidlitchat, #askagent, etc.

Worth Your Time:

Interviews and Q&As:

Meet the Agents: Kathleen Ortiz at MidWest Writers (07/2012).

Live Panel of Professionals: Natalie Fischer, Anica Rissi, Kathleen Ortiz at WriteOnCon (08/2011).

A BBCHAT with Kathleen Ortiz at Writer, Writer, Pants on Fire (08/2011).

Mystery Agent Revealed: Kathleen Ortiz at Operation Awesome (03/2011).

Agent Advice Interview with Kathleen Ortiz at GLA (02/2011).

Interview with an Agent: Kathleen Ortiz at Mother. Write. (Repeat.) (12/2010).

Interview with Kathleen Ortiz at Points of Claire-ification (11/2010).

Interview with Neo Agents’ Kathleen Ortiz at YA Highway (11/2010).

Live Industry Professional Panel (Elana Roth, Kathleen Ortiz, Martha Mihalick) at WriteOnCon (08/2010).

Interview with Kathleen Ortiz at Oasis for YA (06/2010).

20 Questions Answered by Kathleen Ortiz at WOW (2010).

Interview with Kathleen Ortiz, Literary Agent at YA Highway (03/2010).

Ask Agent Session with Kathleen Ortiz on AbsoluteWrite (05/2010).

Blog Stuff:

Mr. Ortiz has too many great posts to list. Before you query, read through the archives of her blog for fantastic advice, preferences, and information.

How-to: Crafting a Query for FICTION (a.k.a. your first impression) (08/2011).

Cool Writers Club, Queries, Partials, etc (04/2010).

Query Etiquette (03/2010).

Query Etiquette Part 2 (03/2010).

Around the Web:

New Leaf Literary & Media page at AbsoluteWrite.

New Leaf Literary & Media at P&E.

See this page at Ms. Ortiz’s blog for conference she’ll be attending, and this page for writing courses she’ll be teaching.

Kathleen Ortiz - The Changing Role of the Agent on YouTube (03/2012).

The First Five Pages Part One, Two, & Three by literary agent Kathleen Ortiz at WriteOnCon (08/2010).

Secret Agent Unveiled: Kathleen Ortiz at Miss Snark’s First Victim (05/2010).

NYC Publishing Tips: The Movie! featuring Joanna Stampfel-Volpe, Michelle Andelman, Laura Whitaker, Suzie Townsend and Kathleen Ortiz.

Query Blunders Take Two: Agent Stories at OPWFT featuring Kathleen Ortiz.

An Interview with client Kimberlee Turley (A QueryTracker Success Story) (03/2012).

An Interview with client Sarah Fine (A QueryTracker Success Story).

Contact:

Please see the Ms. Ortiz’s Publisher’s Marketplace page for contact and query information.

Profile Details:

Last updated: 8/9/12.

Agent Contacted For Review? Yes.

Last Reviewed By Agent?  5/21/10

***

Have any experience with this agent? See something that needs updating? Please leave a comment or e-mail me at agentspotlight(at)gmail(dot)com

Note: These agent profiles presently focus on agents who accept children's fiction. They are not interviews. Please take the time to verify anything you might use here before querying an agent. The information found herein is subject to change.

Tip Tuesday #37

I'm in need of tips for the upcoming weeks, so if you have one to share, please send it in!

Today I'm going to list out some free online communities for writers looking to connect and find support. I find myself recommending forums all the time via e-mail, so I thought it would be good to list some out here and then have you add to the list in the comments.

Larger, active forums:

Verla Kay's Message Board for Children's Writers and Illustrators.
AbsoluteWrite Water Cooler.
Teenlitauthors (yahoo group).
Inkwell (ning).

Smaller forums looking to grow:

Chalk Talk
Unleashed Reviews
The Writers Chronicle (I used to post here, but it's looking dead!)

Your turn! What other free online communities can you suggest?

The League of Extraordinary Writers


An awesome new blog debuted today! The League of Extraordinary Writers is open for your viewing and following pleasure, featuring five 2011 debut authors who write sci-fi and dystopian fiction.

In their words:

"We'll be exploring books, movies, and television; interviewing authors; reviewing dystopian works; and introducing you to our own new works. With a new blog post by a different author every weekday, you're sure to find something you enjoy!"

Sounds great, huh? They're also having a Prize Pack giveaway with signed goodies! Check it out.

Interview with Me at Dark Angel

Hey all -

I've been super busy and will be swamped with school work all weekend, but I wanted to share an interview I did for Sherry at Dark Angel's Blog.

Please check it out. I'll be stopping by for comments and questions, so if you have any feel free to ask there!

Have a great weekend!

Agent Spotlight: Kate Schafer Testerman

This week's Agent Spotlight features Kate Schafer Testerman of kt literary.

Status: Accepting submissions.

DSC_5709-1-300x300About: "After a dozen years working in publishing in New York City, Kate moved to Colorado and formed kt literary in early 2008, where she concentrates on middle grade and young adult fiction. Bringing to bear the experience of being part of a large agency, she enjoys all aspects of working with her authors, offering hands-on experience, personal service, and a surfeit of optimism.

“Her clients include Maureen Johnson, Ellen Booraem, Stephanie Perkins, Carrie Harris, Trish Doller, and Matthew Cody, among other exciting and acclaimed authors. Kate is a graduate of the University of Delaware’s Honors Program, a former cast member of the New York Renaissance Faire, and an avid collector of shoes, bags, children, and dogs. Her interests cover a broad range including contemporary drama, urban fantasy and magical realism, adventure stories, and romantic comedies. She is an active member of the SCBWI and AAR." (Link)

About the Agency:

"Books aren’t just what we do, they’re who we are. We become the sum total of our reading experiences – the romance, the adventures, the coming-of-age, the fantasy, the dare-to-believe. At kt literary, we want to be more.

“Madeleine L’Engle once said, ‘You have to write whichever book it is that wants to be written. And then, if it’s going to be too difficult for grown-ups, you write it for children.’ Write for children. Write for adults. Write for yourself. And then, when you’re ready to find a literary agent to take your work to the next level, think of us.

“kt literary is a full-service literary agency operating out of Highlands Ranch, in the suburbs of Denver, Colorado, where every major publishing house is merely an email or phone call away. We believe in the power of new technology to connect writers to readers, and authors to editors. We bring over a decade of experience in the New York publishing scene, an extensive list of contacts, and a lifetime love of reading to the foothills of the Rocky Mountains.

“And did we mention our boundless optimism?" (Link)

Web Presence:

kt literary website.

Publisher's Marketplace page.

kt literary blog.

Twitter @DaphneUn.

Daphne Loves Books (tumblr).

Facebook.

AAR profile.

AgentQuery.

QueryTracker.

What She's Looking For:

Genres / Specialties: 

“We’re thrilled to be actively seeking new clients writing brilliant, funny, original middle grade and young adult fiction, both literary and commercial.” (Link)

From an Interview (06/2014):

“I want voices that offer unique perspectives and experiences, that can speak to me on a personal level even if I can’t relate to an individual experience. I want to get lost in a story. And like so many of my colleagues, I desperately want multicultural, authentic stories.

“I want to rep a novel about a professional teen athlete — maybe an ice skater or a gymnast, but definitely someone who has chosen to live outside the “traditional” high school experience for the sake of a career.” (Link)

What She Isn't Looking For:

Picture books, adult fiction and nonfiction projects. (Link)

"Mainstream thrillers, hardboiled detective stories, traditional westerns, high fantasy, cold war spy novels, cosies (or is that cosys?) Lots of different types of adult fiction, really, although some of these genres, if well told in a YA or middle grade novel, might be right up my alley." (Link)

Her Advice to Writers:

"Read everything you can get your hands on!  Read novels in your genre, read books about writing, read author blogs.  And know that just finishing a manuscript, while a personal triumph, doesn't mean your novel is ready to be shopped.  Learn to love to edit, and find a critique group." (Link)

Dislikes:

"In queries, telling me what happens without spending time allowing me to invest in the character. Without that connection, I don't care what happens. I also hate being told that that everything out there in the market is bad, or that the author couldn't find anything good to read, so they decided to write a book themselves. It's insulting to me and to my clients." (Link)

See the "Worth Your Time" blog section below for links to other query tips.

Editorial Agent?

"I like to think of myself as a ‘big picture’ editor for my clients. Often when I'm considering a manuscript for representation, I can see ways in which the manuscript can be improved. I like to have a conversation with the author and talk about these possible revisions, see if they mesh well with the author's own thought about their novel. Usually, I will ask for a revision even before officially signing a client, so I can see how they work with editorial suggestions. It's not a line edit, however, I might comment on the pacing of the plot, the characters' motivations and how they're expressed, parts I like and want to see more of, and parts that might detract from the bigger story." (Link)

Clients:

A list of clients is available on the kt literary website. Clients include:

Susan Adrian, Sara Beitia, Josie Bloss, Ellen Booraem, Elizabeth Briggs, Susan Casamento, Kater Cheek, Matthew Cody, Erin Danehy, Trish Doller, Alexandra Duncan, S. Terrell French, Carrie Harris, Maureen Johnson, Julie Karr, Stephanie Perkins, Rebecca Petruck, Ransom Riggs, Daniel Rogge, Thomas E. Sniegoski, Amy Sonnichsen, Amy Spalding, Krista Van Dolzer, Lili Wilksonson.

Query Methods:

E-mail: Yes (only.)

Snail-Mail: No.

Online-Form: No.

Submission Guidelines (always verify):

Send a query letter and the first three pages of your manuscript in the body of an e-mail.  No attachments.  E-mails with attachments will be deleted unread.  Put “Query” along with the title of your manuscript in the subject line. If you've submitted to Kate in the past and she requested pages, do say so in your query.

If she requests, she will usually request the first five chapters and a complete synopsis. The synopsis should include the full plot of the book including the conclusion. No teasers.

See the kt literary website for complete, up-to-date submission guidelines and e-mail address.

Response Times:

The agency's stated response time is two weeks, which seems fairly accurate.  Stats on the web show a range of just hours up to three weeks (with an average around two). Requested materials range from a couple weeks to 3 months, most falling in the one- to two-month range.

What's the Buzz?

Kate Schafer is a successful, well-established literary agent. Her presence in social media and willingness to help writers though her blog and Twitter make her very popular among aspiring authors. She's a member of SCBWI, the AAR, and is actively making sales. Her clients seem very happy with her. 

I recommend subscribing to her blog and following her on Twitter for the latest and greatest.

Worth Your Time:

Interviews:

Agent Interview: Kate Testerman of KT Literary at Alexa Donne’s site (06/2014).

A (Slightly Unconventional) Interview with Kidlit Agent Kate Schafer Testerman at Kidliterati (08/2013).

Query Questions with Kate Schafer Testerman at Michelle4Laughs (04/2013).

Triplet Talk with Kate Schafer Testerman and Her Three Newest Clients; Part I at the kt blog, Part II at Liz Writes, Part III at Mother. Write. (Repeat). and Part IV at Susan Adrian’s blog (06/2012).

Live Panel of Industry Professionals: Kate Testerman, Martha Mihalick, Joanna Volpe, Jen Rofe, Diana Fox at WriteOnCon (08/2011).

PitchFest Interview & Feedback - Kate Schafer Testerman with kt literary at Pitch University (06/2011).

Live Industry Professional Panel (Michelle Andelman, Molly O’Neill, Kate Testerman) at WriteOnCon (08/2010).

Interview with an Agent: Kate Schafer Testerman at Mother. Write. Repeat (07/2010).

AGENT INTERVIEW: Kate Schafer Testerman of kt literary at Tall Tales and Short Stories (07/2010).

Pointers from the Pros: Q&A with Agent Kate Schafer Testerman at My Daytime Drama (07/2010).

Booklovers Interview with Kate Schafer Testerman at Kay Cassidy's site (01/2010).

Agent Advice Interview with Kate Schafer Testerman at the Guide to Literary Agents Blog (11/2009).

Interview with Kate Schafer Testerman at A View From the Top (11/2009).

Marvelous Market Interview with Kate Schafer Testerman at Market My Words (08/2009). 

Agent Interview: Kate Schafer Testerman at Literary Life (06/2009).

Interview with an Agent: Kate Schafer at Teen Book Review (03/2008).

Blog Stuff:

Definitely check out the Ask Daphne blog for an invaluable amount of information (check the archives too!).  Her Quarterly Status Updates, Live Blogs, and Ask Daphne About My Query posts may be of particular interest.

So You Want to Read YA?: Guest Post by Kate Testerman, Literary Agent at Stacked (04/2013).

Musical Theatre Monday – Kate Schafer Testerman on Into the Woods at The Amy Spalding (01/2013).

Around the Web:

An Interview with Erin Danehy -A QueryTracker Success Story.

Are You Ready to Query? at WriteOnCon (08/2011).

Successful Queries: Literary Agent Kate Schafer Testerman and “The Last Good Place of Lily Odilon” at Guide to Literary Agents (10/2010).

Do’s and Don’t’s of Querying by literary agent Kate Testerman at WriteOnCon (08/2010).

Young-adult author, literary agent form lasting connection at University of Delaware Messenger.

You can read 2009 Agent Appreciation Day posts by clients here, here, and here.

Kate Schafter Testerman was the April 2009 Secret Agent at Miss Snark's First Victim.  You can read through the archives to see what she said in her critiques.

Kate’s love story behind moving to Colorado and founding kt literary at Media Bistro (01/2008).

Fun fact: She is the author of THE KING'S SISTER.

Contact:

Please see the kt literary website for contact and query information.

Profile Details:

Last updated: 6/24/14.

Last Reviewed By Agent? 6/24/14.

***

Have any experience with this agent? See something that needs updating? Please leave a comment or e-mail me at agentspotlight(at)gmail(dot)com

Note: These agent profiles presently focus on agents who accept children's fiction. They are not interviews. Please take the time to verify anything you might use here before querying an agent. The information found herein is subject to change.

Tip Tuesday #36

Today's tip was sent in by Deren Hansen. Deren blogs at The Laws of Making. Please give him a visit and consider following. Here's his tip!

Once upon a time computers only displayed text in a soothing shade of green or amber. Then came graphical interfaces will colors, bells, whistles, and all sorts of distractions. Several enterprising developers with retro sensibilities now offer "Distraction-free" editors. While no longer restricting you to green characters, these editors give you nothing but a blank screen and your words. Having an editor in which I could focus entirely on my words has helped me use my limited writing time well.

I use a Windows package called Write Monkey [http://writemonkey.com/]. There are similar packages for the Mac.

Of course, life is ever as simple as it should be and Write Monkey has its drawbacks, most of which come back to the fact that it is a text editor, not a word processor. This means that you get plain double quotes instead of the nice opening and closing quotes that Word supplies as you type. Also, Write Monkey doesn't convert a pair of dashes into an em-dash (again, like Word). I turned this liability into a feature: after writing about a chapter with Write Monkey, I import the text into Word and use the fact that quotes and em-dashes need to be corrected as an excuse to edit the new material.

I have a longer note about Write Monkey on my blog at http://blog.derenhansen.com/2010/04/writing-technology-green-screens.html


Deren, I love the idea of a distraction-free window. It would work really well with the "unplug" hours I've been doing. I think I'll try combining the two. I'm bound to get some writing done then!

WINTERGIRLS Winner!

WintergirlsMonday rocked, did it not?!  Thank you to everyone who entered the contest and Spread the Awesome.  I hope you won, bought, and discovered some awesome new books. 

To pick the winner of the signed copy of WINTERGIRLS by Laurie Halse Anderson, I listed everyone out and assigned numbers.  If you spread the word you got an extra entry.  If you were an international commenter I put you down as a chance for my local high school to win.  I checked the list twice!  There were 89 entries with the extras. 

Then... I used the Random.org to generate a number between 1 and 89

                               WINTERGIRLS Winner

 

Commenter number 40!!!!!!!  I checked the list.  And the winner of this fabulousness is.....

May 2010 010S

 

Taffy  

 

Congratulations Taffy!!!  I'll be e-mailing you shortly. 

If you didn't win PLEASE support Laurie and buy a copy.  If you're interested in purchasing a signed copy Indiebound, feel free to e-mail at caseymccormickya(at)gmail(dot)com for deets. 

A quick WELCOME to my new followers.  Feel free to speak up in the comments and tell me about yourself and your blog.

Have a great weekend everyone!

Agent Spotlight: Tracey Adams

This week's Agent Spotlight features Tracey Adams of Adams Literary.

Tracey Adams About: "Tracey Adams co-founded Adams Literary in 2004, after nearly a decade with literary agencies Writers House and McIntosh & Otis, where she was the head of the children's department. Prior to becoming an agent, she worked in the marketing and editorial departments of Greenwillow Books and Margaret K. McElderry Books.

"A graduate of Mount Holyoke College, Tracey speaks frequently about her profession and the children's book industry at conferences across the country. She is a member of the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI), the Association of Author Representatives (AAR), and a founding member of the Women's National Book Association (WNBA) chapter in Charlotte, NC.

"In her spare time, Tracey enjoys Taekwondo, kickboxing, and test-marketing children's books with her two daughters." (Link)

Status: Accepting submissions.

What She's Looking For:

Genres of interest: Every age and genre of children's books from picture books to older, edgy YA. They also represent illustrators.

From the web site:

"Our clients’ work spans every age and every genre—from picture books to middle-grade and young adult fiction, from historical novels and fantasy to books that tackle important contemporary issues.

"While we give every submission its due consideration, we must admit a fondness for middle-grade and young adult novels with memorable characters and a unique voice. In particular, we're looking for literary stories, high-concept speculative fiction, unique fantasy adventure, humor, and character driven picture books. We gravitate toward the timeless, not the trendy." (Link)

What She Isn't Looking For:

"We don’t typically handle textbooks, novelty, craft, how-to or coloring books—and we don’t handle any adult works." (Link)

Quotables:

About the agency:

"Our philosophy is that we represent authors and artists, not books. As such, we don't work on a book-by-book or term basis, like some agencies do. Instead, we we work closely with our clients to intelligently manage the entirety of their children's publishing careers. We take a long-term view of the market, of our jobs—and of launching and building our clients' careers.

"Drawing upon our editorial expertise, knowledge of the industry, and extensive experience in contract negotiations, we provide editorial judgment and input, marketing consultation, rights management and long-term career planning and advice. In addition to placing and negotiating North American publishing rights, we actively market and negotiate film, UK, translation, audio, merchandising and other subsidiary rights on behalf of our clients." (Link)

Dislikes:

"I throw away anything that says "Dear Sir" immediately." (Link)

"Of course a picture book should never be illustrated by someone who is not an artist, and a rhyming text needs to rhyme. In novels, I'm turned off by telling rather than showing, whiny main characters, too much directly addressing the reader, and violence and profanity when it's only there for shock value." (Link)

Editorial Agent?

Yes. "Because there is a definite need for manuscripts to be more polished when submitting today, I am happy to work with an author editorially.  I feel confident in doing so because of my editorial background.  But I always tell an author only to revise to my suggestions when it rings true and she believes it is making the work stronger - because once you have an editor, you'll be starting from scratch with a new partner.  That said, I am very happy to have a manuscript which is strong enough to submit as is, so I can leave the editing where it really belongs - in the hands of the editor who will publish you." (via e-mail)

Web Presence:

Adams Literary website.

AAR.

Twitter (the best way to receive news and updates on the agency).

QueryTracker, AgentQuery, & AuthorAdvance.

Clients:

A complete list of Adams Literary clients is available on the website here. 

Clients include: Margaret Peterson Haddix, Jenny Nimmo, Geraldine McCaughrean, Cynthia Lord, Margery Cuyler, Vaunda Micheaux Nelson, Coleen Paratore, Jacqueline Wilson, among many others.

Sales:

As of this posting, Ms. Adams is listed on Publisher's Marketplace as having made 8 deals in the last 12 months, 45 overall, and 1 six-figure+ deal.  Recent deals include 4 picture books, 2 middle grade, and 2 young adult.

Note: PM is usually not a complete representation of sales, and it's been verified the agency reports only a fraction of their deals.

"For various reasons (from discretion to timing issues), we do not post all our deals to Publisher's Marketplace, so numbers there are not truly representative.  We average over 60 deals per year, and have done dozens of 6-figure deals."  (via e-mail)

Query Methods:

E-mail: No.

Snail-Mail: No.  

Online-Form: Yes (only).

Submission Guidelines (always verify):

"We accept submissions and queries only through the online form on the SUBMIT page of our website. We will not review—and will promptly recycle—any unsolicited submissions or queries we receive by post. Through the online form, please attach your complete manuscript as an RTF, DOC or PDF file; for artists in particular, please send a PDF of your illustrations and/or provide your web site so we may view your art samples." (Link)

Query tips: Let them know if your submission is exclusive or non-exclusive. Notify them of any offers of representation. If you need to follow up, use their online submission form and reference your submission. 

"It should be properly addressed, include a one paragraph summary (think flap copy) of the work, and list any professional credentials relevant to children's book publishing. The ideal cover letter shows that the writer has done research on my agency, and perhaps even mentions specific authors we represent." (Link)

Via e-mail (04/2010) Mr. Adams shared the following:

"We do give priority consideration to people who've attended and met us at conferences, not only because we support SCBWI, but because we feel it's important for people to get a good sense of who we are and what we're about, since our philosophy and approach is different than other agencies. (Tracey will be at the SCBWI in NJ in June, and I'll be at the national SCBWI in LA in July-August.)"

See the Adams Literary website for the complete, up-do-date submission guidelines.

Response Times:

The agency's stated response time is 3-4 months, but I'm finding a huge range of response times from under a month up to nearly a year.  I'd say 4-5 months seems average. 

What's the Buzz?

Good!  Adams Literary is a children's book, boutique agency with an impressive list of clients and sales.  They have a great team philosophy (explained further on Josh Adams's profile) and their clients seem really pleased with their representation.  Ms. Adams in particular has great industry experience. 

Their response times can be anywhere from a month up to a year (usually several months), so there's definitely some confusion and angst out there about response times and status queries.  Given this, I wouldn't advise going the exclusive route, though they do prefer them. 

Worth Your Time:

SCBWI Bologna Interview with Tracey Adams at Cynsations (2008). 

Keep up with Adam's Literary News, Events, and Upcoming Conferences engagements on the website or by newsletter.

There's a fabulous lineup of Adams Literary's recent titles on the website.

"How I Got My Agent: Kristen O'Donnell Tubb" client story featuring Tracey and Josh Adams at the Guide to Literary Agents blog.

You can also read Kristen O'Donnell Tubb's query that worked at her blog.

Two Agents, Two Views - panel notes including Tracey Adams on Alice's CWIM Blog (2007).

You can read client Kimberly Griffith Little's "The Great Agent Hunt" story.

Google Blog Search turns up a lot of other brief panel and conference mentions. 

You might also be interested in viewing Josh Adam's and Quinlan Lee's profiles here on Lit Rambles as well.

Contact:

Please see the Adams Literary website for contact and query information.

***

Have any experience with this agent? See something that needs updating? Please leave a comment or e-mail me at agentspotlight(at)gmail(dot)com

Note: These agent profiles presently focus on agents who accept children's fiction. They are not interviews. Please take the time to verify anything you might use here before querying an agent. The information found herein is subject to change.

Join the Fun!

Just a quick reminder that W.I.B.I.J. is going on RIGHT NOW.  Get in there and try to win some prizes!  If you can't make it right now, you have 24 hours to fight for the Best Comment award and prize.

Have fun! 

Tip Tuesday #35

Have you ever wondered how to make an image file from a screen print?  Well, the fabulous Lisa Nowak sent in another great tip with instructions on how to do just that.  Please visit her blog on your way out as thanks!

This isn’t a writing tip per se, but it is something I find helpful for blogging and other creative endeavors. With a PC there’s a simple way to create jpgs of anything you see on your screen without having special photo software. (You Mac people will have to figure out your own way to do it.)

First, locate the image you want to make a jpg of and bring it up on your screen. It can be anything on the Internet or your desktop, or even in Word (for example, I used this technique to create jpgs of two buttons on the Word toolbar).

Next, press the “PrtScrn” key on your keyboard. It should be at the upper right, above the “Insert” key.

Now open a Word document and click “Paste” (or type control “V”). You should see a small replica of whatever was on your computer screen when you pressed the “PrtScrn” key. It may look too tiny to do anything useful with, but we’re not finished, yet.

To edit the picture, right click on it. From the menu choose “Show Picture Toolbar”. The Picture Toolbar should open somewhere on your screen. Click on the “Text Wrapping” tool that looks like a little dog. Select “In Front of Text” from the pull down menu. This will allow you to move the object around on the page independent of any text. It will help in the event that you’ve pasted more than one image into the document.

Now click on the “Crop” tool, which looks like a couple of plus signs at an angle from each other. When you hover over the white adjustment squares at the edges of your image, you should see the cropping icon instead of the sizing arrow (if you don’t, click the Crop tool again). By dragging the white squares you can now crop the image.

Once you’ve cropped your image, click somewhere outside it in the document to deselect the cropping tool. When you click on the image again, you’ll see that you’re back to the resizing tool. You can now drag the white squares at the corners of your image to enlarge it.

When you have the image formatted the way you want it, it’s time to save it as a jpg. I do this with Paint, a program that comes with your PC. You can open Paint by going to “Start” then “Programs” then “Accessories”. With Paint open, go back to your Word document, select your image, and copy it. Return to Paint and paste the image. (If your image is very small, you might need to reduce the size of the white background so it doesn’t show as part of the jpg. You do this by dragging the corners.)

Once you’re image is pasted to Paint select “Save As” from the File menu. When the Save Box pops up, it should direct you to the “My Pictures” file. If you want your image to go somewhere else, select the appropriate location. Now give the image a name in the “File Name” box at the bottom. Directly below that you’ll see the “Save as Type” box. From the pull down menu, select “jpg”. Now click “Save”. You now have a jpg of your image, which you can use the same way you’d use any jpg. Because you can use this method to make an image of anything you see on your computer screen, it’s a pretty powerful tool. When you can’t find any other way to save an image, this will get the job done. Naturally you’ll want to be aware of copyright law when using other people’s images.

Thanks again, Lisa.  I think a lot of people will really appreciate this quick tutorial!

Spreading the Awesome + Signed Book Giveaway!

 

Elana has done it again.  She's organized something way too cool, a sort of "National Hug an Author Day" that we're calling "Spreading the Awesome."  The idea is to promote an author and book you feel deserves 10+ stars.  You know, that book.  The one that's the awesomest of the awesome.  The one you drool over love for its every word. 

I don't think I've made it a secret that I worship WINTERGIRLS by Laurie Halse Anderson.  If I have, feel free to kick me in the comment box because this book is A-MAZING.  I think I did a little jump-squeal when I saw the paperback in Costco yesterday.  COSTCO!  Go, Laurie!

Why is this my 10-star book?

WINTERGIRLS is a literary work of art, an amazing young adult novel that deals with the hard issues of eating disorders and death in a haunting, poetic way.  I feel that Laurie really embraced her talent and took it to the next level in this powerful story. I couldn't be more impressed. 

I've read a lot of young adult novels but I hadn't seen the potential of the written word in YA fiction until I read WINTERGIRLS.  Laurie is a master at "showing" rather than telling and brings a lyrical quality to her fiction that I'd never experienced before.  This book really raises the bar for YA writers everywhere, and it's been a large influence in the way I look at writing.  I recommend it to everyone studying craft and/or craving a mind-blowing read. 

Here's the awesome blurb.

"Dead girl walking," the boys say in the halls.
"Tell us your secret," the girls whisper, one toilet to another.
I am that girl.
I am the space between my thighs, daylight shining through.
I am the bones they want, wired on a porcelain frame.


Lia and Cassie are best friends, wintergirls frozen in matchstick bodies, competitors in a deadly contest to see who can be the skinniest. But what comes after size zero and size double-zero? When Cassie succumbs to the demons within, Lia feels she is being haunted by her friend's restless spirit.
In her most emotionally wrenching, lyrically written book since the multiple-award-winning Speak, Laurie Halse Anderson explores Lia's descent into the powerful vortex of anorexia, and her painful path toward recovery.

Holy moly, right?  Yeah.  BUY this book.  Or, perhaps you'll be the winner of the SIGNED hardcover copy I'm giving away to one lucky commenter.  All I ask is that you leave a comment to enter yourself.  I'll give an extra entry if you spread the word via Twitter, Facebook, blog, etc.  Just make sure to tell me in the comments if you do and leave a link if possible. 

The giveaway will be open until Thursday at 12 PM EST so everyone has a chance to enter.   I'll announce the winner on Friday.  I'm afraid I can't afford to ship internationally, so only enter if you have a US shipping address.

On your way out, definitely stop by Caroline Starr Rose's blog for a chance to win a signed ARC of Jame Richards's THREE RIVERS RISING, and the master-list-of-awesome (lots of books being plugged and given away!).

If you have the time, please tell me about a book that totally blew your mind.  I'm always looking for recommendations!  Thanks for reading and good luck to all who enter!